Security cameras added to all student buses

Stevenson buses are sporting a new feature this year: security cameras in both the front and back. The cameras are present on all 56 student buses and cost approximately $75,000 to install, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.

The security system was installed in response to the Illinois Prevent Student Violence Act, which is part of a general change in state legislative policy towards bullying in schools. Many surrounding districts, such as Vernon Hills and Libertyville, have implemented the technology on their own buses as well.

“The addition of the cameras on buses was a nice complement to the security program we already have in place with 150 cameras across the campus for for the sake of student safety,” Mark Michelini, Assistant Superintendent of Business, said.

The cameras take high resolution video of the interior of the buses and offer a limited recording of the buses’ exterior environments as well. The internal video is typically reviewed in regards to bullying incidents, while the exterior can be used for traffic related accidents, Michelini said.

“We’re not trying to be Big Brother,” Dean Steve Tucker said. “The cameras simply offer us another lens through which we can review any situations we need to.”

According to Jim Kingston, location manager for First Student Bus Company, all recordings are kept by the bus company and are not reviewed unless specifically requested by the Stevenson administration. Representatives of the administration of a feeder school, all of which have the cameras on their buses as well, may also request access to video feeds of their respective buses.

The recordings haven’t been used much for behavioral issues thus far, Tucker said. Instead, the school has found a number of alternative uses for them.

“We’ve been able to review any complaints from bus drivers about overcrowding to review the situation on the bus,” Michelini said. “After we look at the footage, we can make a decision about how to reroute the buses if we need to.”

Dealing with overcrowding on buses has been the primary use of the cameras, Tucker said. However, the school does anticipate there being a possible need to also use the cameras in the incident of a minor accident with another vehicle, Michelini said.

“If there were to be a collision, we would have the footage to make an insurance claim if necessary,” said Tucker.

The introduction of the cameras to the buses was a seamless process with no complaints voiced to Stevenson or First Student Bus Company, Kingston said.

The new cameras are only the latest in a series of investments the district has made towards its buses. Stevenson, the only school in the state to do so, created its Zonar Time of Arrival (ZTA) program towards the end of the 2014-2015 school year. The ZTA service allows students to track the location of their bus on a computer or mobile device. This can be of particular use during extremely cold days in the winter so that students are not forced to wait outside for prolonged periods of time.

Ultimately, these moves are representative of Stevenson’s desire to make their buses a place where students feel safe and secure, Tucker said.